Flourishing while in lockdown
Exile can be fruitful and fertile when we see it as a season to build, to love, and to pray.
28 MARCH 2020 · 11:00 CET
This week the world has realized that it doesn’t face local crises but a global pandemic. What is happening now in Italy, where I live, may soon spread to other parts of the world.
Experts are forecasting thousands of deaths and possibly an 18-months wait before humanity returns to normalcy.
How can we flourish in the midst of calamity? Much good advice has been written. I, for one, found solace in a letter written long ago.
The prophet Jeremiah shows life in exile can be productive and fertile.
A SEASON TO BUILD
When Jews were deported to Babylon, Jeremiah instructed them not to get by but to prepare for the long haul: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce”.
When a national lockdown was decreed in Italy, I saw it as a brief interruption. But after days became weeks and life in lockdown our new normal, I chose to see it as season of opportunity.
My wife is taking online guitar lessons with our kids while I’m buying them children’s books so they learn the pleasures of reading. For myself, I’ve ordered Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Martin Luther King’s A Testament of Hope, two big books that I long wished to read and now have time to.
What home do you want to build? What kind of person do you want to become when this crisis will be over?
Let’s not waste our exile. It can be a season to build and to plant.
A SEASON TO LOVE
Life in lockdown can be a challenge for people who live alone. We miss human affection; our thoughts may turn dark and destructive.
Similarly, constant companionship can be a stressor for couples and families. If I may attempt a lame joke, the first group can be tempted to suicide while the second to homicide!
We are facing a psychological crunch on top of a health calamity and economic crisis. Jeremiah’s instruction is insightful also here:
“Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease”.
Now is not a season to turn inward but to reach out; not to diminish but to multiply our affection. We can deepen our bonds at home and convey love to relatives and friends.
A SEASON TO PRAY
My co-pastor at Hopera, Mila Palozzi, remarked that in the Promised Land Israel thought according to tribes but in exile they lived as one nation.
We too are called to shed our tribal thinking and rise up as one people in times of calamity.
In this season, Jeremiah calls us to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper”.
Yes, the news is bad and suffering is global. But we can turn our fear into trust and our hopelessness into prayer. Christians in Italy have joined in prayer for our nation. This week, our church is fasting as well.
We do so with hope, for Jeremiah prophetically adds,
“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you’. ” (Jeremiah 29:5-12)
Life in lockdown may last months. But exile can be fruitful and fertile when we see it as a season to build, to love, and to pray.
René Breuel, pastor of an evangelical church in Rome.